How to Get Your People to Show Up to Work on Time

If you’re a boss, more than likely you have some employees who are chronically late. And like me, I’m sure you have heard every excuse – “I didn’t know we had to be on time.” “There was a long line at Dunkin Donuts.” “I couldn’t find my shoes.” “I had no clean underwear so I had to go to the store and buy some.”

Show up to Work On Time

Don’t Do This

It used to drive me nuts when people were late again and again. Mainly because I thought it was such a simple fix – just show up on time – no skill involved. But, as I’m sure you know, it’s way more complicated than

There could be a lot of reasons why someone is chronically late. Most often, it’s a learned behavior that started when they were young, and turned into a bad habit over the years. Sometimes it’s because the person in question is very disorganized. It could be the result of a serious family or personal issue. It may also be related to control issues. I know a number of folks who either unconsciously or purposefully meet their need for control by making people wait for them (this one still pushes my buttons).

It’s important to keep in mind that different cultures put greater or lesser value on being on time. The pace of life is as diverse as each country is. For example, if you show up an hour late in Brazil no one would bat an eyelash.

Here’s a 3 step approach to help people change this behavior:

1. Assess – Identify the problem by first collecting data. Pick a time period and record each incident that the person is late to work or to a meeting. You also should assess your policy on the topic. Is it clear? Do people understand the expectations? Are there established consequences? Do you even have a policy? If your policy is weak, you need to fix it and communicate it to your team.

2. Address the Problem – Meet with the individual having a problem in a sit down, face-to-face meeting. Point out their pattern and explain the policy. As well as how their behavior is making an impact on the team. Then, explore a solution with them. They need to take ownership of their behavior and it will be impossible to change without a plan they created. It also shows that you as the manager are invested helping make it right. Finally, be clear that if things don’t change then there will be consequences, such as progressive discipline.

When confronting this issue, don’t get pulled into all the reasons why they were late the last time or the time before that. Focus on the future and what needs to change. Also, don’t let them turn the table on you and make it seem like you’re the bad guy by picking on them when other people show up late too. Keep the focus on them and their behavior.

3. Follow-up – Your job as the boss is to continue to reinforce the positive change, revisit the solution if things aren’t changing, and enforce the consequences if there is no change. If it gets to a point where you have to start disciplining the employee, be sure to check in with your Human Resources team first.

If you run a business where it’s critical to have everyone start on time, you can also set up “team goals” and tie them into everyone’s punches. Making it a team thing will help motivate your problem employees.

Most importantly, you need to establish a culture where it’s expected that people show up on time. You do this by over communicating the expectations and being fair and consistent.

I’m interested in learning how you have dealt with this issue. Leave me a comment.


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